, a Spanish technology centre and a member of the BRTA Research Alliance, is deeply involved in additive manufacturing technologies (AM), including SLM (selective laser melting), LMD (laser metal deposition) and WAAM (wire arc additive manufacturing).
It is also the coordinator of several European projects related to metal AM, one of which is Flowcaash — part of the Clean Sky 2 framework, of which Airbus
is the ‘Topic Manager’.
In the Flowcaash project, active flow control actuators have been designed and manufactured ‘at aircraft scale’ using SLM technology and Ti6Al4V titanium alloy.
One of these actuators is the pulsed jet actuator (PJA), which is ‘geometrically complex’ as it needs to be installed in restricted spaces in between the wing and nacelle of UHBR (ultra-high by-pass ratio) aircraft engines.
The PJA is a relatively large part, and because it incorporates several channels with ‘abrupt and narrow curvatures’ it is especially suited to being printed by SLM.
Distortion simulations have been performed in order to ‘establish the optimum supporting strategy’ that avoid supports inside the channels that are not accessible for removal after the printing process.
Furthermore, after parts have been 3-D printed, any remaining powder needs to be removed completely to prevent channels being blocked by the sintered powder during the heat treatment.
This is particularly challenging, but Solukon
, a manufacturer of peripheral equipment for additive manufacturing technologies that is based in Augsburg (Germany) and supplies systems to leading industrial users like NASA, Lockheed Martin, Siemens and ArianeGroup, has developed a de-powdering process — Smart Powder Recuperation (SPR) — which is an effective and fast way to get rid of the residual powder.
SPR provides programmable pivoting of the parts around two spatial axes and enables the cleaning of even the smallest openings and channels, which is of paramount importance for thermal downstream processes. Moreover, to keep the entire process safe, the SFM-AT800-S can run under inert conditions.
The advanced Solukon de-powdering unit features a ‘unique drive system’ and ‘intelligent software’ that allows parts to be moved along ‘any conceivable path’, so that any complex inner channels can be safely emptied of powder.
Andreas Hartmann co-founder and technical director of Solukon, said: “The process is fully automated and takes place in a protected and safety-controlled atmosphere, thus avoiding contact with harmful fine powders.
“Our SPR technology helps to save labour time, while increasing the quality process significantly. At the same time, it reclaims the residual powder without contamination and makes it available for further processing and re-use.”